DEAR ABBY: Unbelievable as it may seem, this actually happened. I was in the ladies’ room in my office building when a woman came in talking on her cell phone. She went into the stall next to mine and continued carrying on a conversation throughout her visit — even while washing her hands!

I have mentioned this to several people. They say they have encountered the same situation in rest rooms, too. Abby, how would you suggest we handle this in the future? — SOME THINGS ARE SACRED IN MARYLAND
DEAR SOME THINGS ARE SACRED: I shouldn’t have to say this, but using a cell phone while going to the bathroom is extremely inappropriate. While the desire not to interrupt a conversation is understandable, to talk while the background noise is reminiscent of an old Alka Seltzer jingle is not only an invasion of the privacy of the occupants of the adjacent stalls, but also disrespectful to the party on the other end of the line.

How to handle it? Ask the offender to please stop. However, for some people the most effective lesson in consideration for others may be when their cell phone falls into the toilet and must be replaced.

DEAR ABBY: My 4-year-old son, “Blaine,” is well- mannered. He knows to take his hat off indoors, and opens doors for people (when they are not too heavy for him). However, Blaine sometimes forgets to say “please” and “thank you.”

When my son and I are out and someone gives him something — like a cookie at the bakery — if Blaine forgets and I prompt him, the person sometimes will say, “Oh, it’s OK. He doesn’t have to say thank you.” It’s very important to me that my son have good manners and always use those words. How should I respond to those who insist that it’s not a big deal for children not to use their manners? — STRICT MOTHER IN DEERFIELD, MASS.

DEAR MOTHER: I applaud you for teaching your son basic good manners, a lesson that will serve him well throughout his lifetime.


When someone tells you Blaine doesn’t “have to” say please or thank you, speak up and correct the person by saying: “Oh, yes he does. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ are magic words in our family, and it’s important that my son always remember to say them.” Do this not for the adult’s benefit, but in order to reinforce the lesson to Blaine.

DEAR ABBY: “Curious in the Sunbelt” (July 16) asked you if it was inconsiderate to knit or crochet while attending a meeting or other gathering. (You said it was.) While it may seem that someone can’t give undivided attention to a speaker while doing something with his/her hands, that person might have Attention Deficit Disorder or be a “kinesthetic” learner. While most people absorb information through seeing and hearing, some actually need to keep their hands occupied in order to listen.

Literature on “multiple intelligences” and other learning theories supports this view — and as a former classroom teacher and current psychotherapist, I have personal experience about this reality. As long as the individual is quiet and not terribly distracting, consider this behavior a better alternative than constant fidgeting. — JAELLINE JAFFE, Ph.D., SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

DEAR DR. JAFFE: Thank you for your professional expertise regarding learning theories. I also heard from a pilot who knits while flying an airplane and a woman who pointed out that if knitting was good enough for Eleanor Roosevelt during United Nations Security Council meetings, it was good enough for her. Most readers agreed that if the individual is not disruptive to others, then what’s the harm? I stand corrected.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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